Chasing A Dream
“They alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.” These words of Swami Vivekananda show us the significance and utility of one single life. We as a young nation, with more than 65 per cent young population, have potentiality of becoming a great nation. But very few of us choose a meaningful life for ourselves and for the nation.
When most of our young population are found chasing a dream of having a secured future, with lucrative salary and hassle-free smooth life, a silent young life shows us the way how to lead a life full of utility and meaning.
Vinayak Lohani shows us the way. After completing his graduation and post-graduation, when all his batch-mates and friends started getting lucrative offers from the big brands around the world, he rather opt for something different, giving up everything to answer to the clarion call of Swami Vivekananda—Service to man is service to God.
After his B.Tech from IIT Kharagpur (2000) and immediately after his MBA from IIM Calcutta (2003), with just three children in a small rented building with almost no financial resources, Vinayak started Parivar, which is now a home for more than 1000 children from difficult backgrounds. Parivar helps rehabilitate orphans, street children and children of sex workers not only from in and around Kolkata and West Bengal but also from Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
One may wonder, what moved Vinayak to give up a glittering career for social service, but he is very clear, what he wants to do. He rightly puts when he says, “I never felt at home in the IIM ambience. Something was lacking. I could visualise my career 25-30 years on. I was not interested in long-term corporate career, so I rather opted for something which satisfies me and which will give me fulfilment for the whole of my life.”
Inspired by spiritual and humanistic ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, Vinayak Lohani decided to devote his entire life for serving ‘Divine in Man’. “One day it struck to my mind that I should start a shelter home for children from very difficult backgrounds to whom I can dedicate my whole life,” says Vinayak.
Think of his struggle without penny, while his friends were earning crores in those days. Although he too could opt for this but he chose this life for himself, so that others can see the light. Till the level of number of sizable children at Parivar, he used to take some lectures for students appearing for management entrance examinations and through that could meet the expenses. Gradually, people began to be inspired by this dedicated service and started to support this initiative and the number of children at Parivar grew. At the end of 2004, Parivar could purchase its own land to develop its permanent campus called Parivar Ashram, and more encouraging is the first seed money in the form of donation came from his mother.
Parivar’s mission and theme began to attract dedicated youth, many of whom joined Parivar Ashram as resident workers and began to become office-bearers of this mission. Today, Parivar is considered to be a model institution for caretaking and overall development of children from destitute backgrounds in a residential setting. It is the biggest free residential school in West Bengal, which is being run without any support from the government. Additionally, Parivar’s day education initiatives cover more than 3000 students in far-flung tribal areas in West Bengal and Jharkhand and provide a plethora of services to the local communities.
In 2011, Parivar started a separate girls’ residential campus–Parivar Sarada Teertha with a capacity to accommodate 500 resident girls. Like the Parivar Ashram (boys’ residential campus), Parivar Sarada Teertha also has its own library, play areas, dining halls, cultural halls, prayer halls and otherschool programmes. Parivar’s own quality formal school–Amar Bharat Vidyapeeth continues to import formal education to all the resident children, i.e. from boys’ as well as girls’ campuses.
Students are also happy living here. Sonali Das, a student of class-10 in Parivar Sarada Teertha, says, “I came here in the year 2005. I don’t have father but only mother and grandmother at home. I and my brother live here in Parivar and now I am studying in Class-10.”
Even after passing out from Parivar, students continue to stay here to pursue further studies with full support from Parivar, like a family. One such student here is Ruksana, who says: “I came here in the year 2004, Dada is like our parents. He taught us everything. He gives us everything we want. I am studying in B.A final year. My siblings say we don’t have parents but we have Dada, who is father and mother to us.”
Parivar’s Village Welfare Block
Parivar is also a base for many other projects serving the rural areas of West Bengal and Jharkhand. Parivar is like a guardian to entire neighbouring villages and anyone who is affilicted with a crises knows that sevavratis at Parivar are always there to do whatever they can, ever-ready to serve. Parivar’s services include education excellence programmes for village students supporting 1500 meritorious students, 24 hours ambulance services for the population in the adjoining rural areas and monthly foodstock scheme benefitting more than 700 old and ailing villagers.
Awards and Accolades
Vinayak Lohani and his Parivar received the National Child Welfare Award 2011, which is the highest recognition by the Government of India to any organisation working in the field of child welfare. Vinayak Lohani is a also a recipient of IIM Calcutta’s ‘Distinguished Alumnus Award’, Sanskriti Award 2011, CNN-IBN’s ‘Young Indian Leader of the Year Award, 2012’ and many other awards.
Using competencies of Parivar, he has mentored a large number of organisations in different parts of India, helping them reach a certain maturity level. On Vinayak and Parivar, many academic case-studies have been authored dealing with grassroots Social Entrepreneurship and Organization-building. These cases have been taught and discussed at various B-Schools in India. Best-selling author Rashmi Bansal’s book ‘I have a Dream’ has an entire chapter on Vinayak Lohani and the initial phase of Parivar.
Not only these, now Government of India too takes advice from Vinayak Lohani on different issues time to time. He is associated with various decision making bodies of the Indian union for the welfare of the society and nation at large.
Parivar’s Support Base
Parivar’s work has attracted an increasing number of supporters from amongst Indians in varied walks of life, and at the same time it has been able to build a cadre of highly dedicated youth sevavratis. A large number of working professionals including IIT and IIM alumni all over the world support Parivar. Bulk of the donations and support comes from individual donors who inspired by Parivar support it magnanimously. Parivar also receives donations from institutions like IOCL, SBI, CLSA, UCO Bank, Cognizant Technology Solutions, United Bank of India, etc.
The Road Ahead
Parivar wants to continuously develop its cadre of dedicated sevavratis who can take vow of service and work in various neglected parts of India for our unserved brethren and bring light to their lives. Thus in the years to come similar full-fledged sevashrams shall be started in other places first in West Bengal and then in rest of India.
Vinayak’s life is a message to every youth of the country that one can lead a life more meaningfully, using education and expertise, for the benefit of the society and mankind.
Roles with Government of India
- Induction into Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) (2015 onwards), the apex consultation forum in Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India.
- Induction into the National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare, constituted by the Ministry of Finance, Government of India (2014-2017)
- Inducted into the Governing Board of Child Line India Foundation (2014 onwards), constituted by the Ministry of Women and Child, which manages 24 -hour child helpline services across nearly 350 towns in India.
- Inducted as a Member of Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF) (2015 onwards), set up by the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, as a funding and capacity-building institution towards accelerating sustainable action in the domain of rural livelihoods.
- Induction into Government of India’s Ministry of Women and Child’s Working Group for the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2011).
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkota